Global strategic frameworks are goals that are discussed and set up by international organizations that should be realized on a global scale. They can be measurable goals with a concrete timeline. Some examples may be the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. Some may find such frameworks unrealistic and ineffective since they are not legally binding. But their existence still matters to the global policy-making scene because it is through initiatives like these that reflect “moonshot thinking” that our society can move forward. While national or regional goals are more concrete and on a smaller scale, strategic frameworks at the global level demonstrate shared human experience, aspiration and responsibilities. What’s more, global strategic frameworks serve as a guide and model for strategic frameworks on other levels. Therefore, despite some drawbacks, they are still indispensible in global governance.
One specific way global strategic frameworks can lead policy-making on the national and local level is through adopting spirits of other international documents. An example of inclusion of legally binding international convention is the intersection between the SDGs and the CRPD. The SDGs were adopted after the CRPD so they do a better job of including persons with disabilities than the MDGs and were able to shift the debate from only focusing on poverty reduction to a more inclusive development strategy. We can observe this trend from the five SDGs that directly refer to persons with disabilities. The SDGs can be better connected with regional and national policies in this way. The case of UNESCAP is an example of this better connection. The Incheon Strategy of UNESCAP successfully facilitated implementation of the CRPD in its member states in Southeast Asia. As the member states of UNESCAP incorporate CRPD into their national policies, they are also contributing to the SDGs. UNESCAP can also use this contribution to further encourage its member states to make progress in the area of inclusion of persons with disabilities. So the implementation of CRPD and the SDGs enhances each other.
The case of UNESCAP demonstrates advantages of overlaps between global strategic frameworks and international conventions. Policies and efforts that are separated and disconnected before can be integrated into the same system by adopting the same language as global guidelines like the SDGs. This is one of the reasons why global strategic frameworks are valuable.
The High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) that will take place in 2018 will review Goals 6, 7, 11, 12 and 15 of the Sustainable Development Goals. While Goal 11 of the SDGs is about inclusive and sustainable city, the theme of the Ninth World Urban Forum (WUF9) in 2018 will be “Cities 2030, Cities for All: Implementing the New Urban Agenda.” WUF9 is not only taking place in the same year as the HLPF 2018 on the same theme, it will also examine how implementation of the New Urban Agenda (NUA) can contribute to realization of the Sustainable Development Goals. This is why the HLPF is an important platform to assess and evaluate the SDGs: It examines a different set of goals each year and encourages other global strategic frameworks to connect with the goals. In order to address “Grand Challenges” that are faced by the global community, effective coordination of resources, efforts and information is vital.
The HLPF can become a more effective platform for sustainable inclusive development if it can take the initiatives to include other global strategic frameworks as part of the discussion. It is true that the SDGs may be seen as an overarching document that leads the direction for global policy-making. So the other international documents about specific aspects of development, such as the NUA, would follow the lead of the SDGs. It is not surprising that WUF9, which will be held to evaluate implementation of the NUA, tries to meet spirits of the SDGs. NUA and SDGs can complement each other and help move each other forward. But the initiatives of recognizing the overlap need to be mutual. Since HLPF 2018 will take place in July after WUF9, HLPF can incorporate discussion on NUA and SDGs into its examination over Goal 11.
While the NUA pertains to a specific goal of the SDGs, other international documents might have less focused and specific connections with the SDGs. Outcomes of World Summit on the Information Society are connected to SDGs in many ways, although they are hard to be narrowed down to one goal like the link between Goal 11 and NUA. The International Telecommunication Union has created the WSIS-SDG Matrix to present importance of ICT in inclusive sustainable development. This is a tool that can be utilized by the HLPF to evaluate progress in implementation of SDGs and to provide suggestions for next steps.
Both WUF9 and WSIS present opportunities of effective coordination of resources and knowledge across frameworks. Whether it’s a framework that can be applied to one goal or one that can be applied across all 17 goals, HLPF can become a more efficient process if it also takes the initiatives to include work of other global strategic frameworks and actors.
Intersectionality “recognizes that a group that inhabits multiple categories simultaneously has experiences that can be seen both as unique to that group and as a result of the overlap of individual categories (Davis, 209).” This concept demonstrates that multiple identities can be reflected on the same person. For example, a person with disabilities can also be a woman who comes from an indigenous community. In international development, to successfully carry out projects, intersectionality needs to be taken into account because it influences individual experiences that determine whether or not a project can be effective. Adoption of this concept can encourage inclusive development but also presents some drawbacks. Recognizing co-existence of identities means that there can be numerous different combinations of identities. The number of combinations can even be countless and creates an endless black hole for understanding of individual identities. What’s more, identity, after all, is a socially constructed concept. How a person perceives himself or herself could be different from the society’s perception. To take every individual’s perception into consideration would endlessly prolong the process of setting up a development project. There is a fine line between the appropriate level of recognizing intersectionality and going too far. Because of this challenge, the first step that can be taken by global policy-makers is to recognize different categories of identities.
The UN major groups and other stakeholders recognize twelve distinct groups of people who play a role in inclusive and sustainable development. One can argue that there is no need of identifying all twelve because some are included in the others. For example, “elderly persons” can be included in “farmers” and “indigenous people.” But this practice would fall into the trap of endless overlaps of identities. It would only slow down the multistakeholder governance process instead of helping it become more efficient. Therefore, it is necessary to expand major groups to other stakeholders like persons with disabilities. In fact, the categories need to be further expanded to meet the goals that reflect inclusiveness in Sustainable Development Goals.
Identifying intersectionality in itself is a grand challenge. It is an issue that is still being debated in the academia. There is not yet a definite answer of how to address it appropriately in international development. One thing that can be done, however, is to recognize more distinct groups of people and organizations that are under the influence of and can contribute to sustainable and inclusive development. This will help mobilize more members of international society to address the grand challenge of conceptualizing intersectionality together.
Davis, Aisha Nicole. “Intersectionality and International Law: Recognizing Complex Identities on the Global Stage.” Harvard Human Rights Journal, Vol. 28 Issue 1, 2015, p205-242.
A grand challenge is a technically complex societal problem that has stubbornly defied solution. It can range from cures for cancer to better management of resources. With globalization, a grand challenge is no longer limited to being a domestic issue. There are a number of global grand challenges. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals each copes with a grand challenge that is faced by the international community. With this understanding, solutions to grand challenges are no longer limited to cooperation between domestic actors and coordination between different sectors within a country. The solutions lie in global connection and coordination of resources. Under global strategic frameworks like the MDGs and SDGs, there are a variety of actors including international organizations, international NGOs, private sector, and local and foreign governments. While development projects by international organizations see global strategic frameworks as guidelines, it is not always the case for foreign government projects. To address grand challenges, an alignment between different actors is essential.
One of the many ways to encourage various actors, especially governments to follow international guidelines in the face of grand challenges, is to build platforms for multistakeholder global governance. The absence of such multistakeholder governance mechanism may result in escalation of conflicts. In early September, 2017, indigenous communities in Ecuador carried out protest against Chinese mining because the mining company did not negotiate with the communities for its projects which were creating damage to local environment and wildlife protection. The protest escalated into violent conflict and resulted in one death and multiple injured. If there were a multistakeholder governance mechanism in place for this project, a more peaceful conversation would have taken place instead of violent conflicts. A global multistakeholder governance mechanism would create a platform where the Chinese state-owned mining company and local communities would be equal actors in the face of the global grand challenge of resource management. This would encourage the Chinese government to apply global strategic frameworks to its development projects and contribute to the global efforts by making positive impact.
Multistakeholder global governance mechanism is valued more and more by international organizations, such as the inclusion of Major Groups and other stakeholders by the UN. This mechanism should not be limited to policy-making at the global level. It should also be applied to decision-making and policy-making on regional and bilateral platforms. In this way, we can build a more holistic global partnership in addressing the grand challenges faced by all.
Education is a key component of development. Unequal access to education resources and opportunities is a global challenge. While international organizations recognize the importance of inclusive education, there are still some missing components. For example, in SDG 4 Quality Education, the emphasis for promoting inclusive and quality education is on pre-school, primary and secondary school, and adult vocational training. Not much is said at the level of higher education. I believe that higher education is as important as other stages of education, and an inclusive international higher education can create next generation of global leaders who have greater cultural sensitivity and understanding of inclusive development.
In 2015-2016 academic year, 325,339 American students studied abroad, which takes up 1.6 percent of all American students enrolled in higher education institutions. Among the students who studied abroad, 8.8 percent are students with disabilities. In fact, there has been a growing trend of American students with disabilities to study abroad, from only 0.1 percent in 2011 to today’s 8.8 percent. This is indeed an astounding jump and one big step towards inclusive education. While their peers have the opportunity to study abroad, students with disabilities are increasingly able to enjoy the same education resources. With experience living and studying abroad, students can build better cross-cultural communication skills and are more likely to take initiatives on global issues.
While study abroad for American students is becoming more inclusive and accessible, it might not be the case for students in others countries. Achieving inclusive international education is a long-term process that requires not only efforts of education experts, but also cooperation between different actors including government officials, legislators, private sector actors, etc. Inclusive education initiative in one country might benefit students from other countries in the globalized world. Master’s of International Affairs in Comparative and International Disability at the IDPP is an example of inclusive international education, since international students with disabilities can fully participate in this program. It is through initiatives like this that students who are traditionally underrepresented in international education can also benefit from it and earn degrees on issues that affect them. This empowerment will enable them to better advocate for their own rights in global governance in the future since they are trained on language and practice that are common in the global policy-making scene. What’s more, a diverse pool of students studying together, although virtually, enhances their mutual understanding.
Inclusive international education is not captured by many global strategic frameworks. But it is an essential component in the concept of inclusive education in globalization. It requires more initiatives like the ones taken by the IDPP to move international education towards a more inclusive direction so that people who benefit from inclusive international education can one day make an impact and fill in this blank in global strategic frameworks.
The 1985 Maintland Report “The Missing Link” pointed out disparity in access to telephone in developed and developing country. The report emphasized importance of telecommunication in development and added a dimension to global inequality. Besides inequality at a global level, there is also domestic inequality in access to telecommunication, even in developed countries. “Falling Through the Net” is a survey that presents unequal access to the Internet in rural and urban areas of the United States. From “The Missing Link” to “Falling Through the Net,” we can observe two trends in discussion on role of telecommunication. One is the form of telecommunication has evolved from landline telephone to the Internet. The other trend is instead of limiting comparison at a global level, there is also examination within a country. But literature on access to telecommunication is still mainly focusing on economic development and regional disparity. In fact, there are certain social groups that are experiencing more difficulties than others, such as elderly persons, women, and persons with disabilities. Therefore, I see such exclusion as a new way to define of “falling through the net.”
Access to telecommunication is crucial to empowerment of vulnerable members of society. Internet and technology tools and help persons with disabilities overcome physical barriers. Virtual meeting platforms, online learning, and online business can all help persons with disabilities enhance their economic and political status. With access to the Internet, persons with disabilities can better participate in global governance. This participation will then lead to more inclusive policy-making on a global scale. The World Summit on the Information Society organized by International Telecommunication Union encourages multistakeholder global governance. As a summit that focuses on spread of Internet and bridging the digital divide, inclusion of persons with disabilities will not only better fulfill its mission but also improve such participation for other global governance platforms.
It is true that telecommunication, as an element contributing to development, is carrying more and more value in both policy making and in practice. Exciting technology advancements in this field help accelerate development and are enjoyed and welcomed by many. But it’s important to keep in mind that there are still members of society that are falling through the net. Only by including those who are traditionally marginalized, such as persons with disabilities, can we truly bridge the digital divide. In doing so, they can also have a greater say in policy making in other areas of development.
The 9th World Urban Forum (WUF9) will be held in Kuala Lumpur in 2018. The World Urban Forum is an important conference for governments to discuss and address urban issues. WUF9 will focus on implementation of the New Urban Agenda and using the New Urban Agenda as a tool for meeting the Sustainable Development Goals in 2030. This is an opportunity to examine the overlaps between the New Urban Agenda and the SDGs. No.11 of the SDGs “Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” is especially relevant to the New Urban Agenda. Holding WUF9 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia will also help push the progress in building “cities for all” forward since with the efforts of UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific , Southeast Asia sets an example for other regions of the world in implementing inclusive policies for persons with disabilities. Besides member states, the General Assembly of Partners will participate in WUF9 to influence the policy making and implementation process as well. Other stakeholders from various sectors that have their own vision on inclusive cities such as the Special Olympics should also be included in the process.
The conception of an inclusive city by the Special Olympics focuses on four aspects for persons with intellectual disabilities: attitudes, access, opportunities and social inclusion. While the definition of persons with disabilities in the SDGs and in the New Urban Agenda is broader, persons with intellectual disabilities are included in this definition. The Special Olympics recognizes the challenges posed by growing urban population and aims at improving inclusivity and accessibility of cities through their games and programs. For example, since the Special Olympics World Summer Games will be held in Abu Dhabi in 2019, Abu Dhabi is one of the four pilot cities for the inclusive city initiative of Special Olympics. While the Special Olympics is seeking ways to make a positive impact on the Middle East and North Africa region, UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia has a lot of space for improving accessibility and inclusivity of cities in the region. Knowledge transfer and experience sharing with other regional agencies of the UN can move things forward. But multistakeholders such as businesses and NGOs can also provide valuable insights on building “cities for all” in MENA region. Therefore, on international governance platforms like the WUF9, participation of stakeholders from different sectors is indispensible and should be encouraged.